After a long day of debates between the 27 EU leaders in Brussels, the European Union has not come with one short extension to Article 50, but two, which will accommodate MPs and enable them to finally take control of Brexit.
• The EU27 leaders met yesterday to discuss the latest developments following the UK’s notification under Article 50.
• They took note of the letter of Theresa May of 20 March 2019, in which she had requested to delay Brexit until 30 June.
• The EU27 offer an extension until 22 May, conditional to the approval of the Withdrawal Agreement next week by UK Parliament. If not, Brexit will be delayed until 12 April.
At the press conference that followed the debates between the EU27 leaders, the President of the European Council, Donald Tusk, commented:
“As you know, we devoted today’s European Council meeting to Brexit. Prime Minister May repeated her requests, to extend the Article 50 period until 30 June, and to approve the so-called Strasbourg agreement.
During the discussion among the EU27, the leaders approached these requests in a positive spirit. The European Council decided to approve the Strasbourg agreement. As regards the extension, our decisions envisage two scenarios:
In the first scenario, that is, if the Withdrawal Agreement is passed by the House of Commons next week, the European Council agrees to an extension until 22 May.
In the second scenario, that is, if the Withdrawal Agreement is not approved by the House of Commons next week, the European Council agrees to an extension until 12 April, while expecting the United Kingdom to indicate a way forward. What this means in practice is that, until that date, all options will remain open, and the cliff-edge date will be delayed.
The UK Government will still have a choice of a deal, no-deal, a long extension or revoking Article 50. 12 April is a key date in terms of the UK deciding whether to hold European Parliament elections. If it has not decided to do so by then, the option of a long extension will automatically become impossible.
As you know, in accordance with the Treaties, any extension must be decided unanimously by the EU27, in agreement with the Member State concerned. This is why I met Prime Minister May several times tonight – to make sure that the UK accepts the extension scenarios – and I am pleased to confirm that we have reached an agreement on this.”
Minutes later, Theresa May made a statement too to confirm that she accepts the conclusions and the decision of the European Council:
“I have just met with Donald Tusk following the EU Council’s discussion on the UK’s request for the approval of the Strasbourg supplementary documents and for a short extension to the Article 50 process.
Firstly I welcome the Council’s approval of the legally-binding assurances in relation to the Northern Ireland backstop which I negotiated with President Juncker last week.
This should give extra assurance to Parliament that, in the unlikely event the backstop is ever used, it will only be temporary; and that the UK and the EU will begin work immediately to replace the backstop with alternative arrangements by the end of December 2020.
After a lengthy discussion, the council today also agreed, subject to a successful vote next week, that in order to provide time for the UK Parliament to agree and ratify a Brexit deal, the date of our departure will now be extended to 22 May.
If Parliament does not agree a deal next week, the EU Council will extend Article 50 until 12 April. At this point we would either leave with no deal, or put forward an alternative plan.
If this involved a further extension it would mean participation in the European Parliamentary elections. As I have said previously, I believe strongly that it would be wrong to ask people in the UK to participate in these elections three years after voting to leave the EU.
What the decision today underlines is the importance of the House of Commons passing a Brexit deal next week so that we can bring an end to the uncertainty and leave in a smooth and orderly manner.
Tomorrow morning, I will be returning to the UK and working hard to build support for getting the deal through. I know MPs on all sides of the debate have passionate views, and I respect those different positions. Last night I expressed my frustration. I know that MPs are frustrated too. They have difficult jobs to do.
I hope we can all agree, we are now at the moment of decision. I will make every effort to ensure that we are able to leave with a deal and move our country forward.”
Theresa May plans to take her Brexit deal back to Parliament on Monday for MPs to vote on. With no substantial changes on the horizon to the version that was rejected by MPs on 12 March for the second time, it is hard to see how the Speaker of the House of Commons, John Bercow, could allow the Prime Minister to put the deal to vote.
Even if the Speaker were to allow for the vote to take place, it still looks improbable that Theresa May would get enough support to get it passed, especially after her extraordinary Trumpian statement two days ago in Downing Street in which she blamed MPs for the chaos she and her government presided over for the last two and half years.
Some Labour MPs, such as Lisa Nandy, who were warming up at the idea of eventually voting for her deal in the last few days have rightly been turned off by the dangerous tone of Theresa May’s statement and her fake “I’m on your side,” addressed to the people watching at home, as if MPs were some kind of traitors who should never have an opinion, should instead always only support the Prime Minister in Parliament and say, “Yes, Prime Minister.”, even if they know the PM’s decisions to be against the national and their constituent’s interests.
Theresa May already knew she didn’t have many friends in Westminster, she will soon find out that she actually has none left. If she has managed, so far, to keep some of her enemies on her side in government, the further defeat(s) of her Brexit deal, the prospect of a long, very long extension of Article 50 beyond 22 May, the possibility of a second referendum or the revokation of Article 50 (and so, no Brexit at all), might well soon be fatal to her premiership.
Thanks to yesterday’s useful EU27 intervention in the Brexit chaos, MPs now have the means to do what Brexiters promised Brexit was all about: the return of Parliamentary sovereignty.
Indeed, it is high time for Parliament to take back control of Brexit and decide to put it to the people.🔷
Liked this story?
Found it useful?
Here’s what you can do next:
(This is an original piece, first published by the author in PoliticsMeansPolitics.com. | The author writes in a personal capacity.)